Have you ever stayed awake for three days and start hallucinating? If you have, you might just tap into the mindset behind Jean Cocteau’s influential avant-garde film Le Sang d’un Poète (aka. The Blood of a Poet). CinePunked look to the stars for guidance as they step through Cocteau’s mirror…
Sleeve notes are below.
With Robert JE Simpson and Neil Sedgewick.
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Episode URL: https://player.whooshkaa.com/episode?id=959454
The further down the rabbit hole we go, the more connections are made, and at the moment we’re bouncing back and forward between films from a century of cinema.
It says a great deal that there are films made 100 years ago, which are still echoing and influencing films released in the last few months. That there are mainstream audiences getting excited by ideas and visuals which have origins from much further back.
Jean Cocteau’s ‘Orphic Trilogy’ of films is a fascinating discourse on the nature of the subconscious, on memory, and the nature of ourselves, and the vanity of the individual. Deeply personal, the films can be incredibly difficult to navigate, and yet a viewing is almost certainly going to be a rewarding experience as a whole.
My first encounter with the films came as a undergrad film student. I had deviated from set texts and started exploring the university library’s collection of films, and reading around my subject. As I recall, I saw the third of the films first, on a cinematic rerelease – Le Testament d’Orphée – a strange film that I later discovered, owed a lot to the filmmaker’s earlier work. I might not have had the whole picture, but I was fascinated. And the rest of the trilogy soon followed.
As I make clear in the recording, Cocteau is one of my favourite artists – I enjoy the simple complexity of his art, the evoking of classical forms, the sense of avant-garde. I find the pieces speak to me, and something about his independence resonates time and time again.
Every time I suggest a film to the rest of the team, that I am personally invested in, I do worry that I’ll face resistance, or that someone will call out my personal canon as worthless. But thankfully dear Neil was up to the challenge – and with a slight warning from me, sat down to watch his first Cocteau – Le Sang d’un Poète.
The resulting conversation seeks to interpret and understand elements of Cocteau’s film, without proscribing our readings onto it. We explore the imagery and evocations that resonate with us, and tease out further connections with other work.
Once again connections to Alice in Wonderland and The Matrix seem clear, but there are other things too – the sleepwalking brings to mind The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, a film Cocteau had an interest in remaking, and we were both reminded of some of the work of David Lynch.
The conversation covers a lot of ground, from social commentary, to Cocteau’s rebellious streak, to LGBTQ representations, Lacan’s mirror phase, and allegations of anti-Christian attitudes.
Because this is largely played as a silent movie, without dialogue, the audio podcast includes no clips, and in a rarity for us, there are no edits to the discussion. This is as pure and poetic a pondering as its possible to get – itself something that is discussed in the pod.
We’ll be tackling the other films in Cocteau’s Orphic Trilogy in the coming episodes, because there is a journey to be explored here, and I’m looking forward to seeing Neil encounter these films for the first time. If you’re doing a similar journey as you listen to the show, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
The Blood of a Poet (Le Sang d’un Poète is available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD from StudioCanal in the UK and the Criterion Collection in the US, and is available to buy/rent across multiple streaming services.
The CinePunked theme music is ‘Riding the Synth‘ – © 2020, Ben Blademan Simpson. Used with permission.
Episode recorded via Zoom in Dundonald and Newtownards, Northern Ireland on 13 February 2022.
Engineered and edited by Robert JE Simpson. Audio podcast first published on 17 February 2022.